Libya: The Chaos Escalates

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August 3, 2014: Fighting around the main airport outside Tripoli has left at least 22 dead in the last 24 hours. The battle for the airport has left over 200 dead during the last three months. Zintan militias have long controlled the Tripoli airport, which they are trying to defend from Islamic terrorist militias. The government has been trying for over a year to get the militias out of the airport, where the militiamen are more interested in extortion and stealing than in providing any security.

Chaos continues in Libya, largely the result of so many armed groups that cannot agree with each other. There appear to be over 1,500 different armed groups in Libya. Most are local and exist mainly for local defense. Only a minority (under ten percent) of these militias are involved in the current violence in Tripoli and Benghazi. Most of the militias are organized into coalitions, mainly for mutual support and because of some shared beliefs. The largest of these is the Misrata Union of Revolutionaries. This group has over 30,000 armed members and about 200 different militias in and around the city of Misrata. Then there is Ansar al-Sharia, the largest Islamic terrorist group in Benghazi. This group was responsible for the 2012 attack that killed the American ambassador and has most of its strength in the east (around Benghazi). The Al-Zintan Revolutionaries Military Council is based in the mountains southwest of Tripoli in and around the Berber town of Zintan. The LROR (Libyan Revolutionary Operations Room) is a pro-government militia that has been trying to maintain control in Tripoli and Benghazi. The February 17 Martyrs Brigade it the largest and most dangerous Islamic terrorist coalition in and around Benghazi. In theory this coalition works for the government as they are on the government payroll. At the moment this coalition has divided loyalties. Most militias are not associated with a coalition and primarily involved with local matters.

Finally there is the National Army, which is the anti-Islamic terrorist coalition formed in the west by former Libyan general Khalifa Hiftar earlier this year. Hiftar’s coalition has been on the offensive since May but despite initial success his attacks spurred the Islamic terrorist groups to get organized and put up more of a resistance.

Oil production dropped from 555,000 barrels a day to 450,000 over the last few weeks because of the continuing violence in Tripoli and Benghazi. The government continues to face severe financial problems.

Because the Tripoli airport remains closed (since the fighter there began on July 13th) foreign nations are sending warships to get their embassy staff out. The fighting in Tripoli has gone on for two weeks now and has caused nearly a thousand casualties (about 200 of them dead) and much property damage. The worst of this is a fuel depot fire started by a rocket. This may not have been intentional and both sides recently declared a truce around the burning depot to allow firefighters to deal with it. The depot (near the airport) contains nearly seven million liters of vehicle fuel and other petroleum products, plus an even larger amount of natural gas. These fuels are most of what is readily available to city residents and the fire has shut down shipments from the depot and that is causing shortages for everyone.

The chaos in the two largest cities (Tripoli and Benghazi) threatens to destroy the health care system. That’s because most of the medical professionals in the hospitals are from the Philippines and India. Both countries are threatening to order all their citizens out because of the growing chaos and violence. Without the foreign doctors, nurses and technicians most hospitals would have only a few such essential staff and would not be able to handle current patients much less new ones from the fighting.

August 2, 2014: The new parliament, elected in May, gathered and held an emergency meeting in Tobruk. The first formal meeting of the new parliament is set for August 4th.

Britain is shutting its embassy in Tripoli and evacuating the remaining staff until such time that it is safe to return. Most embassy staff were evacuated a week ago, but now the fighting has gotten worse and there is no sign it will let up soon.

August 1, 2014: On the Tunisian border one of the main crossings was temporarily closed because so many thousands of people, mainly foreigners but also Libyans, were trying to get out. Libyan border guards fired into the air to halt get a crowd trying to force its way through. Egypt later reported that two of its citizens were shot dead during this incident. Tunisia recently advised over 50,000 Tunisians living in Libya to come home for a while, for their own safety.

In Benghazi several thousand people demonstrated to protest the militia violence that has been going on for weeks. While the Hiftar forces have withdrawn from the city, so apparently have the Islamic terrorist militias, which recently declared that they controlled the city. They don’t and local civilians, some of them armed, control checkpoints and are the only obvious signs of anyone being in charge.

In Benghazi the main police headquarters building was leveled by a huge explosion, apparently from inside. Islamic terrorists had been shelling the building for over a week and the police had abandoned it in the last week.

July 31, 2014: In Benghazi a coalition of Islamic terrorist militias has forced the army to withdraw most of its troops from the city.

July 30, 2014: In Benghazi Islamic terrorist group Ansar Al-Sharia declared that Benghazi was under their control and was now an Islamic emirate. This was not true. While government and anti-terrorist militias had withdrawn from parts of the city, so had Islamic terrorist groups. Police abandoned their headquarters building downtown because shelling had caused considerable damage.

In Tripoli rival militias fighting near the airport agreed to a ceasefire so that firefighters could deal with a blaze that had damaged and shut down a nearby fuel depot.

In Tunisia officials reported that at least 6,000 Libyans had entered the country in the past few days, to get away from the chaos in Tripoli and Benghazi. More Libyans were apparently headed for Tunisian exile.

July 29, 2014: Outside Benghazi Islamic terrorist militiamen overran an army base. In Tripoli Canada pulled its embassy staff out of the country.

July 28, 2014: It was revealed that the Libyan government is paying the legal bills of Islamic terrorist leader Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai (also known as Abu Anas al Libi). In October 2013American commandos seized Ruqai in front of his Tripoli home and brought him back to the U.S. for prosecution. Libya protested this seizure and pro-terrorist politicians apparently persuaded the government to hire lawyers to defend Ruqai. This was suspected but until today was denied.

July 26, 2014: In Tripoli the United States pulled its embassy staff out of the country. Elsewhere in Tripoli a large rocket hit a building and killed 23 Egyptians living there. In the last two weeks as many, if not more, civilians have died in the fighting between rival militias than militiamen. Rather than fight up close the militias prefer to use the large quantities of rockets and artillery shells they plundered from Kaddafi era stocks after 2011. A lot of this stuff is old and not very accurate, so a lot of civilians end up being hit.

July 19, 2014: Near the border in southern Egypt (Al Wadi Al Gedid) Libyan arms smugglers, believed to be from an Islamic terrorist militia, attacked an army checkpoint with assault rifles and RPGs, killing 22 soldiers. This was mainly due to one of the RPG warheads hitting the checkpoint ammunition supply and leading to explosions that caused most of the casualties. Egyptian officials believe that large quantities of stolen (from government warehouses after 2011) weapons have been moved into Egypt by arms smugglers since 2011. Efforts to halt the traffic is often met with violence by the heavily armed smugglers.

 

 

 

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